For a small ship, Azamara has plenty of options available for each meal -- and that's not counting the fact that passengers are encouraged to explore local cuisine on shore. On a nine-night cruise, we ate dinner in the main dining room only once. The line plans to add a complimentary tapas bar to the ship when it goes into dry dock in January 2016.
Overall, the food is quite good. We appreciated the variety that the menus had, as well as the rotating themes in the buffet; the tables there are attractively spruced up at night with soft glowing orbs. We also loved the fact that the main dining room offers an entree salad every night; we wish we saw this more often at sea.
Much like a river cruise line, Azamara includes some wine and spirits in your fare, as well as soda and bottled water. Besides the house wines, complimentary drinks include three brands of beer, nonalcoholic fruity drinks and many popular poolside refreshers, such as margaritas, pina coladas and rum runners. (More complete water, beer, wine and spirits packages are available for those who want to upgrade.)
Discoveries Dining Room (Deck 5): Open for breakfast, dinner and occasionally lunch (on sea days), Azamara Journey's main dining room spreads across the back of the ship. Decor is cream and gold, with cushy chairs, a coffered ceiling and a chandelier -- very similar to an upscale hotel dining room.
Breakfast is served between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. Items include eggs and omelets, waffles and pancakes, breakfast meats and pastries.
Lunch hours in Discoveries vary. Options include arugula salad with prosciutto, toasted pine nuts, blue cheese, and mission figs; seared ahi tuna with Israeli couscous and citrus vinaigrette; and coconut and lime pork with basmati rice, peanuts and cilantro. Desserts include chocolate cake with praline ganache and banana; salted caramel chocolate torte with vanilla gelato and brioche pudding with rum-raisin gelato.
Dinner is open seating between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.; while there are tables for two, the maitre d' will ask couples if they'd like to sit at an eight-top with other passengers. Reservations are not required.
Options for the four-course meal include an appetizer, soup or salad, entree and dessert. A typical dinner may start with an appetizer choice of mushroom risotto, salmon tartare and country pate; a red lentil, carrot, celery and turnip soup with tasso ham; chilled avocado and watermelon soup; or Boston lettuce with marinated artichokes and grilled vegetables.
Typical entrees are beer-battered cod with steak fries, pea puree, wilted spinach and remoulade sauce; grilled five-spice lamb chops with acorn squash and eggplant hash; and leek and potato bonbonniere stuffed with vegetable ratatouille and red pepper sauce. There's a pasta entree every evening, such as orecchiette with lobster and cognac sauce, as well as a healthy choice option like corn-fed chicken breast with sauteed garlic potatoes, spinach and asparagus in a carmelized shallot sauce. In a nice touch, Azamara Journey has an entree salad every night, such as mesclun lettuce with sliced loin of lamb on lentils.
Always-available options include chicken consomme with chives and sherry, Caesar salad, sauteed salmon filet, lemon marinated grilled chicken breast, New York strip steak with creamed spinach and baked potato, and an international cheese plate. Vegetarian options are noted.
Dessert choices include warm chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream and mocha sauce; Champagne gelee with pink grapefruit and clementine; banana beignet and chocolate sauce; several flavors of gelato, sorbet or frozen yogurt; Tahitian vanilla creme brulee and New York-style cheesecake.
Once per cruise, Azamara Journey holds a sumptuous Jazz Brunch that includes dim sum, bananas foster, various forms of eggs Benedict, pastries and desserts. Hours are 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Mosaic Lounge (Deck 5): In the upper part of the ship's atrium, Mosaic is Azamara Journey's coffee shop, with complimentary cappuccinos, espressos and other coffee drinks; those made with Nespresso carry a charge. A small choice of complimentary savories is available throughout the day. The lounge is a popular spot during tea time. It's open 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and noon to 5:30 p.m., with tea lasting between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Windows Cafe (Deck 9): Azamara Journey's buffet encompasses the aft of the ship on Deck 9 and has indoor seating or outdoor tables at the adjacent Sunset Bar. Windows succeeds in feeling more like a restaurant than a buffet; white tablecloths are standard, and soft globe lights are added on the tables in the evening.
Breakfast hours are 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Waiters will serve you coffee or juice, or you can grab your own. Options include omelets and waffles made to order; breakfast meats (including blood pudding for the Brits); oatmeal and muesli, pastries, yogurt, fruit and cheeses. There's also a smoothie bar where you can get complimentary concoctions, made to order.
Lunch is served 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Options include a carving station, made-to-order sandwiches, hot entrees like lasagna, sushi, meats and cheeses. This is when the ship's ice cream station, which serves a rotating list of gelatos, is open.
Dinner in Windows is a different theme every night. On our nine-night cruise, we saw Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Indian, Italian and French options. A sample menu for Indian night included tandoori chicken, a variety of curries, dal, pork vindaloo, mango lassis, papadams and naan. Dinner is available from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Pool Grill (Deck 9): In the shade adjacent to the pool, the Pool Grill has grilled items to order, a salad bar and barbecue. Once per cruise, there's a more elaborate Officer's Barbecue with music; the food is also set up in this space for the White Night party buffet. It's open for lunch from noon to 6 p.m.
Room Service: Room service on Azamara Journey is complimentary. The breakfast menu is extensive, with everything from smoked salmon plates to steak and eggs available. The rest of the time, you can order several soups and salads; fruit, cheese and meat platters; hot and cold sandwiches; main entrees like strip steak; pizzas and quesadillas; and desserts. Our midnight pizza came within 20 minutes.
In addition, all cabins can order anything from the main restaurant menu when Discoveries is open; suite passengers can order off the specialty restaurant menus, as well. If you have a cabin with a balcony, we highly recommend doing this at least one night per cruise, as all verandas come with full-sized tables.
Azamara has two specialty restaurants on its ships, as well as a Chef's Table that has three options: French, Italian and Californian. Meals at Aqualina and Prime C are complimentary to suite passengers; because of this, you should make reservations. (At both restaurants, ask for a table near the sloping aft windows.) Specialty dining packages are also available.
Aqualina (Deck 10); $25: Azamara's Mediterranean specialty restaurant is a dreamy, romantic space decorated in a palette of creams and blues. Four-course dinners include an appetizer, a soup or salad, an entree and a dessert; there's also a small amuse bouche. Make sure you arrive hungry; for a multi-course meal, we were surprised by how large the portions were.
Standouts there include the daily house-made pasta special (there's also an always-changing pasta appetizer), the veal chop in a mushroom glaze and the limoncello souffle. Other items on the menu include prosciutto-wrapped scallops and seared tuna loin as appetizers, crab bisque and tomato salad as a second course, grilled sea bass with pesto tagliatelle and sauteed boneless chicken with russet potatoes and Sicilian olives as entrees, and tiramisu or flourless chocolate torte for dessert. Note: If you're craving chocolate souffle, give the kitchen advance notice before you dine.
Champagne & Caviar Bar (Deck 10); a la carte: Within Aqualina, Azamara Journey has a bar that's dedicated to caviar tastings, with Champagne and vodka as accompaniments. It's open 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Prime C (Deck 10); $25: The ship's steakhouse is a worthy splurge, simply for the view alone. While the line will be changing its menu in 2015, ours had an array of cuts, such as filet mignon, New York strip and rib-eye with accompanying sauces and traditional sides like creamed spinach, twice-baked potato, goat cheese souffle, and mushroom and leeks. Appetizers include escargot in a mushroom sauce, beef Carpaccio, Caesar salad, lobster salad and crab cakes. In addition to steak, Cornish hen, halibut and rack of lamb are also available. Dessert choices include a popular chocolate molten lava cake, caramelized apple cheesecake and mini cinnamon sugar donuts.
Chef's Table (Deck 10); $95: Unlike other lines, which only offer a Chef's Table once during the cruise, Azamara does it three times -- each with a different menu. Built around the themes of Italy, France and California, the six-course meals are served in the Prime C bar and offer paired wines.
We chose the Italian menu and found it was well worth the splurge. Not only was the food excellent -- we particularly liked the roasted veal tenderloin, served with a crisp black olive polenta -- but the wine pairings were delicious and, in some cases, surprising. Who knew that an Argentine Torrontes -- a flowery white wine -- would go with celery root soup? David, the sommelier, who normally works in Prime C, apparently did, and he apologized for veering from Italian wines for this course.